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The Real Agenda: Syria, Mali, DRC

"The Real Agenda: Syria, Mali, DRC - Terrorism or Resource Wars?" was the urgent theme of UfP 2013 Annual Conference at the House of Lords on 7 November 2013 with some eighty present, under co-chairmanship of Lord (Frank) Judd, UfP Vice- President and a former Minister of International Development. The global community was 'increasingly exasperated' with the arrogance of the super-powers, Lord Judd declared: "other states and peoples don't want to accept their agendas." A 'redistribution of power’ in the councils of the world was urgently needed - "international conferences should have global priorities, not those of the super-powers only." Security Council reform was urgent; UK could only justify its permanent member status by 'responsible actions' in the world, not by-passing UN as with 2003 Iraq War. Redistribution of global power was necessary "for people to believe the world is theirs." Co-chairing, UfP chair Vijay Mehta endorsed Lord Judd's comments, adding "ending current violence and pillage around the globe" was key priority. Analysing Mali and Sahara region, Jeremy Keenan (Professorial Associate, School of Oriental & African Studies; UN consultant) dated its instability from 2002-3 when USA launched the 'Sahara Front' in its War on Terror - for hegemonism, control of Niger area oil, and backing multinationals' seizure of Tuareg lands for uranium – with Algeria secretly backing USA. Tuareg rebellions occurred in Mali and Niger; jihadist groups eg. Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb arose, threatening take-over of Mali, which prompted UN Security Council authorisation of French intervention (early 2013) to oust the Islamists. Although France stabilised the situation, its complexity made lasting peace prospects ‘extremely bleak’; with US interventionism (use of special forces) creating “a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror and instability.”

Left to right: Rev. Brain Cooper, Prof. Jeremy Keenan, Ms. Kate Downey-Evans, Lord Judd, Vijay Mehta, Dr. Makkram Khoury-Machool

Kate Downey-Evans of 'Blind i' campaign highlighting intervention and exploitation in DRC(Congo), spoke of 'extreme violence and many atrocities' perpetrated against its people, from end 19th-century under King Leopold of Belgium for rubber extraction, to recent decades of interventions for minerals, especially coltan for tantalum used in electronic products. Intervention-sparked civil wars had cost up to 10 million lives in 'Africa's forgotten war'. Strong UN security presence and lobbying
multinationals to undertake ethical practice, were essentials. (see also Issue 8, p4).

Dr. Makkram Khoury-Machool (Cambridge University)
analysed regional factors in Syria's civil war. Pro-Nato Qatar and Saudi Arabia were arming and financing anti-Syrian state forces for economic and power reasons. Qatar wanted to weaken Russia's role, and boost its oil exports to Europe with a trans-Syria pipeline. Muslim Qatar and Saudi Arabia would welcome collapse of Assad's regime, last secular one in the region; it would also boost their position against Iran. Sunni jihadists wanted to seize as much of Syria's economy as possible, to boost their regional strength. Israel welcomed a weakened Syria, to strengthen its occupation of Syrian Golan Heights and domination of water

sources. Turkey,albeit helping the opposition, feared Syria's breakup would promote Kurdish autonomy. Rev. Brian Cooper, UfP Churches and Inter-Faith Secretary, on 'Religion and Conflict', said religion was vibrant in every world region except Western Europe. The remarkable resurgence of Islam, essentially a spiritual renewal, had had profound political repercussions, especially in Middle East - including misuse of faith for power-struggles, community strife, civil war and inter-state rivalries. "Given the social and economic deprivation of the region, suffering and dislocation caused by Western invasions following a century of interference and exploitation, and globalisation, it is hardly surprising faith-driven change can become perverted by violence. Radical Islamist jihadism is clearly a violent response to the West as well as part of intra-Muslim struggles (Shia versus Sunni). The situation is more complex due to conflict between (culturally)pro-Western, pro-liberal, pro-democracy minorities
–'the internet generation' – and more traditional, conservative Muslim forces." Russia, very aware of the radical Islamist threat in Chechnya and Caucasus, was especially concerned at its strength in Syria, with persecution of Christian minorities there and across the region another major cause for concern. Hegemonism and resource plunder were keys to the wars in Syria, Mali and DRC, Vijay Mehta argued. Rich nations' extraction of resources eg. coltan, oil, on unequal basis from poorer countries left the latter impoverished, lacking wealth to kick-start development. "Militarism is the key driver of economics of underdevelopment. Puppet governments in poorest countries are
given arms by rich countries to oppress and control their peoples in return for unfettered access to natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals, which keeps developing countries in never-ending poverty, widening the gap between rich and poor to an all-time high." For example, global oil companies in Niger Delta had a 'kleptocratic relationship' with Nigeria's government and elite, with no benefit to local people – hence sparking armed resistance. Iraq had proved military solutions were never viable. UN and African Union had to be proactive in promoting dialogue, negotiation, diplomacy and reconciliation for political solutions for lasting peace in the war-torn countries.

Report by Brian Cooper

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